Monday, December 26, 2005

Council's Choices: (1) Advice for the Eternally Disgruntled; (2) The Labyrinth of Secrecy

Watcher's Council Dr. Sanity’s post on Victimhood easily took first place in the Council nominations. It reminds me of the shock I had the first time I saw the word “victimology” in some magazine article or other. They weren’t using the word satirically so I knew right then we were in trouble. If someone takes a process and plunks “-ology” on the end of it, you ought to tiptoe away.

Unfortunately, this one has become so widespread you can no longer escape. “Victim” and “Abuse” have been so devalued and trivialized that they no longer have real meaning outside the ghettoes of Academe. However, in case you’ve been under a rock these last twenty years — sleeping off a binge, perhaps — then hasten to read the good doctor’s “Idiot’s Guide to Victimhood.” It is especially important to read it if you’re planning to be one. And like any good writer, she draws you in immediately with a list of the advantages of victim status:
     This brief guide is for those searching for an expedited pathway into the exalted status of Victimhood. Becoming a victim --as we all have learned from famous TV stars, prominent politicians; religions, races, and even nations--is an advantageous state of being in many ways, several of which are:
-You are not responsible for what happened to you
-You are always morally right
-You are not accountable to anyone for anything
-You are forever entitled to sympathy
-You are always justified in feeling moral indignation for being wronged
-You never have to be responsible again for anything,,,
In my years working at a woman’s shelter I had the opportunity to speak with many such people, mostly women — but not exclusively so. With experience, I learned which women were going to be hardest to deal with: those who came in saying, “Dymphna, make him stop hitting me”; and those who wailed, “it isn’t fair.”

To the “make-him-stop” group I would ask if they thought their abuser loved them. Invariably, the answer was in the affirmative. Of course he “loved” them, he just needed to stop hitting, punching, etc. I would then ask if they had requested of this loved one that he stop using them for a punching bag. They’d look at me like I had two heads and the impatience with my obviously retard-o questions would begin to show. “I’ve asked him over and over again. The children have begged him. His mother is mad at him for how he treats me.” Pause. Then I would ask, as gently as possible, if all the people who loved him couldn’t get him to stop whaling on her why did she think a stranger would have any effect?

That either ended the session with one of us huffy (not I) or the woman would begin to see, just a little, that asking doesn’t mean getting. It was a small but important step.

The women who wailed that it wasn’t “fair” were much harder to deal with. These were women who — should the abuse escalate or if it involved heavy drug use — could wind up dead. Their abusive environment was viewed as something they didn’t deserve and therefore “shouldn’t have to” protect themselves against. They lacked a mature intuitive sense and were likely to leave themselves open to danger. The most egregious case of this nature was a woman I worked with who was shot and killed by her abuser when there were police officers in the house.

So go read all of it. Make sure your kids don’t spout any of these privileged positions. You’ll be saving them a lot of future pain. Say what you will about Bill O’Reilly, he knows how to teach kids to look out for themselves. Any child (or adult) who took his book(s) to heart would refuse to buy victimology as a valid perspective.

First place in the non-council nominations was Volokh Conspiracy’s essay, “Legal Analysis of the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program.” This is not a casual post; it is dense and thorough. However, Orin Kerr is an excellent teacher: he lays out the questions first, provides his caveats and tentative answer, followed by his reasoning and how he arrived there. The first two paragraphs of this essay may be the best introduction to a thicket of national intelligence and security that you will find anywhere.
     Was the secret NSA surveillance program legal? Was it constitutional? Did it violate federal statutory law? It turns out these are hard questions, but I wanted to try my best to answer them. My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges somewhat on technical details we don't know, it seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. My answer is extra-cautious for two reasons. First, there is some wiggle room in FISA, depending on technical details we don't know of how the surveillance was done. Second, there is at least a colorable argument — if, I think in the end, an unpersuasive one — that the surveillance was authorized by the Authorization to Use Military Force as construed in the Hamdi opinion.
This is a really long post, so let me tell you where I'm going. I'm going to start with the Fourth Amendment; then turn to FISA; next look to the Authorization to Use Military Force; and conclude by looking at claim that the surveillance was justified by the inherent authority of Article II. And before I start, let me be clear that nothing in this post is intended to express or reflect a normative take of whether the surveillance program is a good idea or a bad idea. In other words, I'm just trying to answer what the law is, not say what the law should be. If you think my analysis is wrong, please let me know in the comment section; I'd be delighted to post a correction.
These two paragraphs could serve as a model for anyone attempting to explain a difficult subject. Where he goes from there will elucidate your understanding of the NSA situation. Somewhat. And then you’ll read the comments and decide a good stiff drink is in order. You’ll be right, too.

Check out the other posts on The Watcher’s blog. There’s one on Planned Parenthood’s machinations which will make you wonder about that group. If you didn’t already. By the way, did you know one of its founders, Margaret Sanger, was an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics? No wonder that group makes moral decisions that resemble intellectual pretzels devoid of common sense or human decency. Just saying...


Epaminondas said...

The NSA post was one of the greatest untanglings of all time.

It's a great technical de-razzing.

It's worth every second it will take to re-read it, and re-read it again, for if the democratic national party insists on suicide, we may get treated to a plethora of such considerations.

It all ignores the trumping of such considerations waking up the next morning alive brings along with it.

Know what I mean?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I recommend also Theodore Dalrymple's recountings of his experiences counseling abused women. You can get the full load in Life at the Bottom, but you can google him and get the essays individually as well.

Alan Kellogg said...

In my line of quasi work I hear many cries of 'unfair'. If the game is unbalanced, it's unfair. If the GM does not shade things in the player's favor, it's unfair. Fairness has become the watchword of the roleplaying game industry, and most often when someone speaks of fairness he means it aint biased in his favor.

We seem to have forgotten that life is risk, that you can't guard against everything bad that could happen. Furthermore, we seem to have no idea that preventing one sort of harm can lead to another, possible worse harm. (Keeping baby safe from germs leading to allergies later in life for example.)

So we keep our children safe from life, and render them unable to cope with it when they are on their own. So when they are faced with anything that has never been fair, not in any fashion, they are utterly unable to handle the problem. Utterly unable to figure out what to do that is at all constructive.

There are those who seek to infantalize people, the better to retain control over them. Role gamers who complain about balance and women who cry "unfair" about abusive behavior or but two examples of the consequences of this policy. I'm sure one can think of others.

Dymphna said...

Dalrymple is great. I think I have all his stuff -- the books and the City Journal articles. There's one he wrote recently on Shakespeare that I've been meaning to translate to something that would parallel the blogosphere...

...brilliant, if mordant.

One of my favorite of his observations of the underclass is how the people there that he talks to pride themselves on their tolerance and lack of predjudice. ROTFLOL, mate.